SAN ANTONIO - Although they were exonerated of charges of sexually assaulting two young girls more than 20 years ago and declared innocent by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals two years ago, the women dubbed the "San Antonio Four" still had to live with their criminal records. That is, until Monday, when Anna Vasquez, Cassandra Rivera, Kristie Mayhugh and Elizabeth Ramirez had their records expunged.
“When I came in here (the courthouse), I just started shaking," Rivera said. "It’s a good feeling to know that it’s finally, completely over.”
The San Antonio Four were convicted in 1998 after two of Ramirez's nieces, ages 7 and 9 at the time, accused them of sexual assault.
One of the alleged victims recanted her story in 2013. On Monday, Judge Catherine Torres-Stahl officially granted the expungement of the women's criminal records.
“It is my honor and my privilege to be able to sign these expungement orders," Torres-Stahl said. "It’s not often that we have the ability to do that on the criminal side and to see maybe a wrong (made) right."
Vasquez, Rivera, Mayhugh and Ramirez were all tearful as they picked up the orders.
“They will no longer have these criminal histories for being arrested, charged and falsely convicted in these charges,” said Mike Ware, executive director for the Innocence Project of Texas.
"It was hard," Ramirez said. "I brought my mom today. It was difficult for her and I know, for years, she prayed for this to happen. Today, when she sat in that courtroom, she finally has that peace of mind.”
Ramirez and the other women said it doesn't end here and they want to continue to work with the Innocence Project so they can help other people who are wrongfully convicted.
"We wouldn’t be standing here right now if it wasn’t for Mike Ware from the Innocence Project of Texas," Rivera said. "He took time out of his life and made this happen. He didn’t know we were innocent. He fought for us and he found the truth.”
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